Almost two years after AT&T struck a deal to acquire Time Warner for $85.4 billion dollars, a federal judge has ruled that AT&T can make the acquisition, no strings attached, rejecting the U.S. Justice Department’s request to block the merger. The Justice Department filed the antitrust suit late last year, on the grounds the merger would hurt consumers because it could limit competition and raise prices. AT&T and Time Warner countered that deals such as this are necessary to keep pace with streaming rivals like Netflix.
Judge Richard Leon imposed no conditions on the merger, and said he hoped the government “has the wisdom and courage” not to seek a stay. The decision will likely encourage plans for other transactions, in the media world and beyond, most immediately Comcast’s potential competing bid for Fox assets. As for the government, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim said, “We will closely review the Court’s opinion and consider next steps.”